Brad Crabtree seems to be running against North Dakota Public Service commissioners who are not on the ballot, rather than state Sen. Randy Christmann, the Republican-endorsed candidate. Crabtree, who is making his second run for the Public Service Commission, has been trying to make the case that sitting commissioners broke the law by accepting campaign contributions from interests with matters before the commission. While that allegation might or might not prove to be true, Christmann is Crabtree’s opponent, and the race should be about them.
On balance, Christmann is the better choice for the open PSC seat by virtue of his experience and record in public office and in the private sector. The veteran state senator has been involved in issues that routinely are on the PSC’s plate. He has wrestled with those matters in settings ranging from landowner concerns regarding power line and pipeline rights of way, to wind power installations and the coal country land reclamation. The Hazen legislator has been in the middle of coal country issues for decades.
A rancher, Christmann understands the importance of protecting land and water from the overreach of development. His real-life experiences have nurtured in him a pragmatic approach to development, in particular where the PSC would have regulatory jurisdiction.
Crabtree has advanced an impressive and balanced approach to energy that includes coal, oil and gas, and emphasizes support for wind and biomass. His platform is heavy on conservation and energy efficiency. He has a good grasp of other PSC responsibilities, including grain elevators, railroads and lignite technologies. There is little doubt he is knowledgeable enough to be a competent commissioner.
But competency should be complemented by practical, on-the-ground experience. As a legislator from energy country, a longtime cattle rancher and a director of a telecommunications company, Christmann meets that test better than his opponent. The state senator is more in sync with the PSC’s role in the context of North Dakota’s changing needs and priorities.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.